In China, governments have long been concerned ( and in China, “long” is really long.) with “the mandate of heaven.” By this is meant sufficient acceptance by a sufficient number of those ruled that the government may continue to rule. A fundamental truth of government is that no matter how armed, a few cannot rule many without some degree of acceptance. Currently, consider the “Arab Spring” in the Middle East. This political truth underlies the ongoing Chinese antcorruption pogrom. Some unusually high heads are falling; an indication of the degree of concern among Chines rulers. The Chinese economy is slowing and with so much history available, the Chinese leadership knows well what to expect.
In the United States, a much younger place, the economy is slowing too. A much younger but no less politically aware government must cope. And that government is no monolithic ex-Communist dictatorship; it still must provide at least the appearance of democracy, in a place where restive natives still own firearms of their own.
From the Founders’ days until the continent was subdued, American government promoted growth and enrichment as its way forward; since then, those have developed into competing power centers threatening government. They have been brought to heel by a mix of suppression and accommodation, resulting in our present “crony capitalism.” In this uncomfortable amalgam, the economic interests tend toward conservatism, having much to lose by change; the political elements tend toward overreaching, trying to keep the political winds directed as desired.
It has become a mice test of political skills under economic tension. The politicians of the West have pushed the price of labor above the world price, driving their economic interests to invest offshore where labor labor is cheaper. And not only labor left the West; much capital in search of better returns followed. A result was the germination of foreign competition on a world level.
Of course; that is Economics 101: Competition. But no Western politician can afford to say that to unemployed constituents.
Now, numbers of those unemployed constituents having multiplied, they have stopped buying so much of the cheap foreign production and as a result, everybody is buying less from everybody, government is forced to print money it cannot gouge from more impoverished citizens and the entire Jerry-built scam is headed into collapse. And no politician can admit such a thing.
Arab oil sheiks toss cheap oil onto this economic fire to hold off competition from fracking, thereby impoverishimg other oil producers like Russia, Iran, Venezuela and Mexico.
In turn, Russia and Iran distract their citizens with military adventures against neighbors. (So does the U.S.)
In the United States, the once wealth-oriented government has reversed into managing the equalization of planetary wealth, encouraged by development of truly world-wide economic interests no longer desirous of U.S. or European ascendancy in economic matters.
The economic elephant in this shrinking room is of course, that we are describing a limited economic space: the earth. Within such a constrained space, the ultimate economic gains of one segment must sooner or later, proceed from the economic losses of the other. It is seen as a zero-sum game; one for which a winner requires a loser. That is the underlying political premise behind Western economic polities at present. That is why the worlds’ historic anomalies, the middle classes. are melting into the historical norm: impoverishment. The beneficiaries are the political class imposing the trend and its financial pimps in large economic enterprises; the Middle Ages redux.
Most unfortunate in all this is its false premise. The Malthusians promoted their versions of this, pointing to the inadequacy of agriculture to feed multiplying humanity. Their gloomy predictions of doom were washed away by the reality of the “green revolution” in agricultural technology that now has a much larger population castigated for wasting food.
Human technical progress has opened horizons on earth; it has yet to open the enormity of the universe. Nobel Laureate Professor Stephen Hawking points out regularly that our species must progress into space or die out on earth, planets are transient inhabitants of the universe. That and other as yet undiscovered realities will offer opportunities if we pursue them,
If we do not pursue them, Professor Hawking’s warning will find us unprepared, enduring self-imposed impoverishment upon a dying earth as reality ultimately arrives. It is our choice. At the moment, we are allowing our politicians to choose on our behalf; the choice that best lines their own pockets.They will die satisfied and rich; their descendants will at some point, pay a high price for that.